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The Absent Jews: Kurt Forstreuter and the Historiography of Medieval Prussia

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The Absent Jews

Kurt Forstreuter and the Historiography of Medieval Prussia

Cordelia Hess

334 pages, 1 map, 1 table, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-492-4 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (May 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78533-493-1 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - edit   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Based on a meticulous analysis of various primary sources, she questions the existence of an anti-Jewish policy and concludes that the low profile of Jews in official documents may not in fact point to their physical absence but rather the absence of conflict between Gentiles and Jews, as peaceful relations were less likely to be recorded than blood libel cases and pogroms… Hess’s attempt to recover Jewish experiences in light of the surviving evidence offers a useful introduction for English-speaking readers who are unfamiliar with the complexities of Prussian medieval history.” • Journal of Modern Jewish Studies


For nearly a century, it has been a commonplace of Central European history that there were no Jews in medieval Prussia—the result, supposedly, of the ruling Teutonic Order’s attempts to create a purely Christian crusader’s state. In this groundbreaking historical investigation, however, medievalist Cordelia Hess demonstrates the very weak foundations upon which that assumption rests. In exacting detail, she traces this narrative to the work of a single, minor Nazi-era historian, revealing it to be ideologically compromised work that badly mishandles its evidence. By combining new medieval scholarship with a biographical and historiographical exploration grounded in the 20th century, The Absent Jews spans remote eras while offering a fascinating account of the construction of historical knowledge.

Cordelia Hess is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg and a Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Literature, History and Antiquities, Stockholm. Her publications include Social Imagery in Middle Low German: Didactical Literature and Metaphorical Representation (2013) and, as co-editor, Fear and Loathing in the North: Jews and Muslims in Medieval Scandinavia and the Baltic Region (2015, with Jonathan Adams).

Subject: Jewish Studies History: Medieval/Early Modern
Area: Germany


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